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Archive | January, 2017

City votes to retain City Manager

City Manager Michael Womack is doing a good job for the City of Cedar  Springs.

City Manager Michael Womack is doing a good job for the City of Cedar Springs.

Cedar Springs City Councilors have decided that they like the job that City Manager Michael Womack is doing for them.

On January 12th, 2017, City Councilors reviewed the first six months of Womack’s performance as City Manager, assessing him in multiple categories.

Overall the Cedar Springs City Council rated Womack’s performance as very competent. Councilors stated that they were highly satisfied with Womack’s hiring of new staff and for creating an inviting atmosphere at City Hall. Councilors were also happy that Womack has created a good working relationship with Council, staff and the public. Womack also received praise for conducting the City’s business in a pleasant, positive and professional manner. Councilors did note that Womack could work harder at reaching out to City businesses and would like to see him continue working on the Heart of Cedar Springs project, the new fire barn and new streets and sidewalks in the City.

City Council voted 7-0 to retain Womack as City Manager and voted 7-0 to increase Womack’s salary $2000 per year to $74,000.

Womack started as City Manager on August 1st, 2016, replacing Thad Taylor, who departed the City for Manistee in November, 2015. Womack stated that he was very happy with Council’s vote of confidence in him and that Cedar Springs has been very welcoming.

“I look forward to working for the community for several years to come,” said Womack. “The City is working towards being more business-friendly and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities for growth and improvement in the near future.”

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Man dies in officer involved shooting

The Kent County Sheriff's mobile crime lab at the scene of the shooting in the 4000 block of Summit Ct. in Algoma Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

The Kent County Sheriff’s mobile crime lab at the scene of the shooting in the 4000 block of Summit Ct. in Algoma Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

UPDATED 1/29. Also see related story: Shooting victim suffered from mental disorder

By Judy Reed

A man died in Algoma Tuesday after he struggled with a police officer and was subsequently shot.

According to Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma, officers were called to a domestic dispute in the 4000 block of Summit Court, which is west off Summit near 14 Mile, about 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24. When deputies arrived, they learned that there had been an altercation between two brothers, who were now separated. One of them, who was suffering from a mental illness, got into an altercation with one of the deputies and injured him. Shots were then fired by a deputy, resulting in the death of the brother that was fighting the officer.

Sheriff Stelma said that the officer suffered minor injuries, including lacerations and bruises, but is fine.

Jonathan David Sper mugshot from Kent County Correctional Facility.

Jonathan David Sper mugshot from Kent County Correctional Facility.

The officer that fired the shot has not yet been identified.

The Wyoming Police Department is investigating the shooting, and identified the deceased brother as Jonathan David Sper, age 30. Sper had been released from jail just hours before the shooting. He had been arrested in Grand Rapids on January 18 for ordering food/beverage without paying, and for failing to identify himself to a police officer. 61st District Court records show he was uncooperative several times during his appearances before the judges, causing his hearings to be canceled, but he finally pled guilty on January 24, and was released, receiving credit for the six days served as his sentence.

Jonathan David Sper in happier times.

Jonathan David Sper in happier times.

Jonathan is the son of David and Mary Sper of Grand Rapids. The shooting happened at the home of his brother and sister-in-law, Jarred and Sara Sper.

According to his obituary, Jonathan graduated from Abilene Christian University in 2014. He was described as a dreamer, full of life, who loved people, and had an entrepreneurial spirit.

A memorial service will be held at Ada Bible Church on Knapp St., Saturday, January 28, at 11 a.m. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, family asked that donations be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness at http://ifundraise.nami.org/campaign/sper.

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Secretary Johnson announces next-generation voting equipment

 

N-New-voting-equipment-every-voice-counts-logoLocal clerks now will choose which system works best

City and township clerks across the state got some welcome news this week, when Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced the approval of contracts for new next-generation voting equipment that all Michigan voters will use over at least the next decade.

The State Administrative Board approved 10-year contracts with three vendors for optical-scan voting systems that read and tabulate paper ballots marked by voters. Each of Michigan’s 83 county clerks now will consult with the city and township clerks in their county to select one of the three vendors.

“The new equipment offers voters all the speed and convenience of the latest ballot-scanning and election-night reporting technology while at the same time featuring a good, old-fashioned paper ballot that we can always go back and look at if we need to,” said Johnson, the state’s chief elections official.

N-New-Voting-pullquoteLisa Wright, the clerk in Spencer Township, who also worked as an election inspector in Spencer Township for 15 years, was happy to hear the news. “I think this is fantastic. The benefits far out-weigh the cost,” she remarked. “The current machines are way outdated.”

The three election equipment and software vendors that had contracts approved are Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software and Hart InterCivic, which all have systems that are being successfully used in other states.

“Michigan’s voting equipment has served us well over the past 12 years, but it is nearing the end of its expected lifespan and needs to be retired,” Johnson said. “I thank local clerks for their feedback as we discussed how to replace our aging equipment as well as the support of lawmakers and the governor.”

The new equipment, which includes ballot tabulators, accessible devices for use by voters with disabilities and election-management and reporting software, could be in use as early as the August 2017 primary local elections, depending on how quickly clerks are ready to implement them. All cities and townships across the state will have the new equipment by August 2018, which is the next scheduled statewide election.

The new systems all use digital optical scan technology, which includes notable improvements and increased ease of use for voters and election administrators. The systems allow for electronic storage of ballot images, a feature that will be useful during post-election audits. Improvements in the election management system software will save county and local clerks time and money in preparing for elections and providing election results. The options available for voters with disabilities are also greatly improved, and contractors will be required to continually assess and improve the systems, based on feedback. The contracts also cover service and maintenance.

A team of Michigan Bureau of Elections staff, local election officials and purchasing agents from the Secretary of State’s Office and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget reviewed the proposals and equipment before recommending approval of a contract with three vendors. Elections staff sought extensive feedback about the systems from local election officials and advocates for Michigan voters with disabilities.

Solon Township clerk Mary Lou Poulsen said that County Elections Director, Susan de Steiguer, kept the local clerks of Kent County well informed during the long process of voting equipment replacement. “She served as an advisory member on the Michigan Bureau of Elections’ committee charged with the task of recommending replacement systems,” explained Poulsen. She said local clerks will get to try out the systems at a presentation in March.

“Fortunately, Solon Township has had good experience with the current tabulation equipment, with a few problems in the tabulation of Absent Voter ballots, where creases from being folded and mailed have caused jamming…(but) we never did have much luck with the Automark system that was designed for voters needing assistance in the polls. The machines were cumbersome, slow and jammed easily,” she explained.

Poulsen added that yes, she does think it is time to replace the equipment. “Twelve years is a quite a good lifespan for this type of equipment.”

But what does concern her is that they don’t yet know how much of the cost the township will have to cover. “That’s still quite a concern for us as we prepare next year’s budget,” she said.

Johnson said that the new equipment will be paid for with $30 million in federal Help America Vote Act money that the Secretary of State’s Office has saved for more than a decade, and with $10 million approved by the Legislature with the support of Gov. Snyder. This funding will cover most of the up-front cost for the new systems. Cities and townships will pay for the remaining cost, which will vary, depending on which vendor is selected, and for extended service and maintenance, which will begin in the 6th year of the contract period.

The equipment voters used in 2016 was rolled out in 2004 and 2005 when Michigan began using optical-scan voting systems statewide. Michigan is one of the only states with a substantial amount of federal funds still available to assist with the purchase of the next-generation voting systems.

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State police investigate attempted suicide

 

In the early morning of Monday, January 23, 2017, Troopers from MSP-Lakeview were assisting the Ionia County Sheriff’s Department to locate a man who had been in a yard threatening to shoot himself with a rifle in the Belding area. The subject left the scene after police were contacted. However, the investigation led troopers to a possible address in Oakfield Township where they might find him.

After they arrived on scene, troopers saw a man in a vehicle matching the given description. The man got out of the vehicle and troopers attempted to establish communication with him. The man immediately placed a rifle to his head and fired one round. There were no shots fired by responding officers.

After securing the scene, troopers performed first aid until medics arrived on scene. The man was transported by ambulance to Butterworth Hospital with a critical injury. The man, who was identified as the man they were looking for from the previous incident, is not expected to survive.

As of Wednesday, January 25, the police had no new information to pass along on the shooting.

Investigation into the incident is ongoing. Assisting at the scene was MSP-Rockford, Ionia County Sheriff Department, Kent County Sheriff Department, and Rockford Ambulance.

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The Post travels to see Dr. Pol

Pictured from left to right is Diane Pol, Cole Spicer, Dr. Jan Pol, and Charles Pol. 

Pictured from left to right is Diane Pol, Cole Spicer, Dr. Jan Pol, and Charles Pol.

Cole Spicer, age 7, son of Randy and Lianna Spicer, of Spicer Ornamental Bird Farm, in Solon Township, traveled with his copy of the Post to see his friends the Pols on January 21. The Pols are a famous veterinarian family in Weidman, Mich. Dr Jan Pol and his family own a clinic that is recorded by National Geographic Wild as the “Incredible Dr Pol show.” Spicer Ornamental Bird Farm was featured nationally on National Geographic Wild in season nine, episode 1.

“Dr Pol and his family traveled to our hometown of Cedar Springs to purchase peacocks,” explained Lianna. “Our farm raises various colors of peacocks and exotic pheasants from all over the world right here in the rural countryside of Cedar Springs. We are also on Facebook. We have shared a common interest with the Pols in peacocks and farming. We always receive a warm welcome and have a great visit every time we see the Pols.”

She said Cole is a big helper on their bird farm. His duties include gathering eggs, and helping feed and water. He also helps move the peachicks when they hatch from the incubator to their brooder. “Cole loves his animals and is on his way to becoming quite the hobby farmer,” she said.

Thank you, Cole, for taking us with you on your trip to see Dr. Pol!

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Winter fun

N-Winter-fun-Hawley

Ashley Hawley sent us this photo earlier this month of Landon Murphy (5), Maddie Schultz (5), and Hannah Schultz (7), enjoying some hot chocolate after playing in the snow at their home on Pine Street in Cedar Springs. Hot chocolate is a great way to warm up after playing outside!

If you have winter photos you’d like us to consider for publication, email them to news@cedarspringspost.com with “winter fun” in the subject line. We publish them as space allows, and do not guarantee publication.

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Trout Unlimited, partners receive $8 million grant for habitat restoration

Trout Unlimited and partners at the Natural Resources Conservation Service working on wetland restoration.

Trout Unlimited and partners at the Natural Resources Conservation Service working on wetland restoration.

Trout Unlimited (TU) and partners have received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The $8 million federal grant will promote conservation efforts in the Lower Grand River Watershed. In the Rogue River, as part of TU’s Home Rivers Initiative, approximately $2 million will support conservation agreements and help agricultural landowners to implement best practices to address water quality concerns.

Trout Unlimited will work with partners including the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kent Conservation District, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, local municipalities, and schools to restore wetlands, reconnect floodplains, install buffer strips, and implement other erosion control practices to reduce sedimentation in the local waterways.

“This 5-year grant is regionally important as there are partners implementing restoration practices all throughout the Lower Grand River Watershed, including in downtown Grand Rapids as part of the river revitalization project,” said a statement from Trout Unlimited. “For that project to be successful, it is necessary to protect and restore upstream communities and watersheds such as the Rogue River, as it is a significant coldwater tributary to the Grand. Trout Unlimited is pleased to be a part of such a momentous project and excited to expand their efforts in the Rogue River watershed.”

Trout Unlimited has also been working with area schools and other volunteers on projects for Cedar Creek, right here in Cedar Springs. Cedar Creek is part of the Rogue River watershed.

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Veteran leader takes the helm of U.S. attorney’s office 

 

Grand Rapids—Andrew Byerly Birge assumed the duties of Acting U.S. Attorney by operation of law following U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles, Jr.’s resignation last Friday at noon.

Birge was serving until then as the First Assistant, the senior-most management position in the office. Birge had held the First Assistant position for the last nine and a half years. U.S. Attorney Charles Gross first tapped him for the role in May of 2007, under then-President George W. Bush’s administration. U.S. Attorneys Donald A. Davis and Patrick Miles each subsequently asked him to continue serving in that capacity. A First Assistant functions as the chief advisor to the U.S. Attorney and oversees the office’s civil and criminal litigation as well as its administrative operations.

Miles said of Birge: “I know I am leaving the office in good hands.” Miles described Birge as “extremely knowledgeable” and a person of “impeccable integrity.”

Birge has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for over sixteen years. Prior to assuming senior management responsibilities, he oversaw the office’s appellate practice and handled all manner of criminal cases. He began his legal career as a law clerk to the late Chief U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Enslen, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he was an Associate for several years with the law firm of Jenner & Block in Chicago, Illinois.

Birge expects to serve as the Acting U.S. Attorney until President Donald Trump nominates and the U.S. Senate confirms a successor U.S. Attorney. “I take great pride in undertaking this opportunity. This office has remarkably dedicated and talented attorneys and staff with an outstanding record of holding wrongdoers accountable and vindicating the interests of the United States. I plan to continue that tradition of excellence in the pursuit of justice.”

Birge obtained his law degree from the Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton College, where he graduated cum laude and with Distinction as a history major.

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Conservation officer rescues man overcome with carbon monoxide

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink, who is originally from Grand Rapids, and now serving in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink, who is originally from Grand Rapids, and now serving in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink rescued a man earlier this month who was overcome with carbon monoxide while trying to save a homeowner.

The incident occurred at 3:43 p.m. Wednesday, January 11, when Evink was dispatched to a home along Hutt Lake Drive in Schoolcraft County, which is in the mid-eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. A deliveryman for Suburban Propane had gone to fill a propane tank at the home of 59-year-old Ronald Haug. Arriving at the house in Inwood Township, the driver noticed Haug on the floor of his garage.

The 55-year-old deliveryman went into the garage and tried to revive Haug with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He also called emergency operators at Central Dispatch.

“He told the dispatcher he was getting dizzy and couldn’t do CPR any longer,” Evink said. “Dispatchers then lost contact with him.”

Evink, who had been at Indian Lake State Park, roughly 15 miles away, went to the home, driving his four-wheel-drive patrol vehicle through 5 or 6 miles of unplowed roadway to reach the house.

Once there, he saw footprints leading into the garage.

“I opened the service door to the garage and saw two individuals on the ground,” Evink said.

Evink said the deliveryman had a pulse and was breathing, but was unresponsive. Mr. Haug had no pulse and also did not respond. The men had been overcome by carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless toxic gas. Mr. Haug did not survive.

“The delivery man was barely alive,” said Lt. Eugene “Skip” Hagy, a DNR district law supervisor out of the Newberry office. “Mike opened the big garage door and worked to get the victim fresh air and kept trying to get him conscious.”

An ambulance with advanced life support paramedics from Manistique Public Safety got to the house at 4:24 p.m., about 15 minutes after Evink had arrived.

“Had Mike not arrived when he did, there would have likely been two fatalities,” Hagy said.

The deliveryman was in stable condition when he was rushed to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital in Manistique. Officers interviewed him Thursday night. He was being treated and monitored.

The source of the carbon monoxide is still being investigated.

“The efforts of CO Evink demonstrate the types of lifesaving incidents our officers can be called to respond to at any given moment,” said Lt. Pete Wright, acting Captain for the DNR Region 1 Law Enforcement Division. “He is a great example of the capable type of person we train our officers to be.”

Four days earlier, in a search and rescue incident, Evink was involved in aiding two stranded snowmobilers in Alger County who say he and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer David Tembreull saved their lives.

David Vorhes, 64, of Trenary and Mike Lasley, 56, of West Bloomfield were riding east of Munising in a backcountry area in Burt Township.

“We were stranded out south of the Kingston Plains when we placed a 911 call to (the) Alger County Sheriff around 6 p.m.,” Vorhes said in a message commending the efforts of the two officers.

Vorhes said the two riders were broke down and lost, off trail in 4-5 feet of snow, along the Clyde Lake Road, north of Trail 88 and 43, south of the Adams Truck Trail.

“It was blowing and cold that night,” Evink said.

One of the snowmobilers had just crossed a lake and buried his sled in snow coming off the ice. The second rider went to get help and his machine broke down.

“The engine seized,” Evink said.

Arriving in the area deputies had picked up from cellphone signals, Evink and Tembreull began following snowmobile tracks into the woods and, eventually, footprints.

“Somehow they were able to find us showing exceptional recovery skills, noticing our footprints in a gully then following them until they came upon us,” Vorhes said.

Evink said the officers found the two riders in a makeshift shelter they had fashioned under a pine tree.

“We had no illumination, light or any sort of emergency preparedness kit—a cardinal sin when venturing out in any conditions into the remote Upper Peninsula,” Vorhes said.

The officers activated their patrol lights to let the snowmobilers know they were police approaching.

“They saw our lights and started walking toward us,” Evink said.

After freeing the snowmobile that had been stuck in the snow, the officers and the snowmobilers rode about a half mile to the place where the second sled was broken down.

Determining the engine would not start, they unhooked a belt so the track of the sled would freely spin and the machine could then be towed to a place where it could be retrieved the following day.

Vorhes said this added about two hours to the rescue effort.

“Put simply, Dave and Mike were going to make sure that not only were we returned safety, but our equipment was also returned safety,” Vorhes said. “With weather conditions of zero degrees, without wind chill, winds gusting between 25-30 mph and snowing heavily, creating a very low visibility, they were not fazed or detoured by these conditions.

“Once they located us they kept our spirits high and kept saying that they were having a blast, ‘This is what we live for,’” Vorhes said. “Dave and Mike are heroes. They saved our lives that night.”

Evink said the two snowmobilers were cold, but coherent. The riders began to warm up as they helped in the work to get the sleds out of the woods.

“If they had been stuck out there all night they would have been in pretty bad shape,” Evink said. “Their extremities were pretty cold.”

The men were found about 2.5 miles from Alger County H-58 and only two-tenths of a mile from the Adams Trail.

“With the way the winds and the snow was blowing that night, they would have had no idea they were that close to the road,” Evink said.

The riders were taken back to a staging area where they were met by an Alger County Sheriff’s deputy who returned them to Munising where they spent the night with a relative.

“With Shared areas of responsibility, and with an emphasis on inter-agency cooperation, the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and conservation officers oftentimes work together in cooperation to achieve our various management goals,” said Tembreull, who is from L’Anse and has worked with the Forest Service for the past decade.

On the night of the search and rescue, Tembreull and Evink were conducting a joint patrol looking for registrations and safety violations.

“I believe it is important to maintain and foster a strong interagency relationship and assist each other in the best way possible to benefit the public and natural resources,” Tembreull said.

After working for a year as a law enforcement officer with the city of Cadillac, Evink was hired as a conservation officer with the DNR in 2010. A native of Grand Rapids, Evink was assigned to Schoolcraft County and he has been on patrol there since.

“These two incidents are examples of the important role Michigan conservation officers play in lifesaving and search and rescue operations throughout the state,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Conservation officers are well-trained and routinely respond to a wide range of situations where people find themselves in need of assistance.”

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.

Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

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MSP motor carrier officers join forces to fight human trafficking 

MSP-logo

Michigan State Police (MSP) motor carrier officers are teaming up with officers from neighboring states to raise awareness of human trafficking Jan. 23 – 27, 2017.

The MSP, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Indiana State Police have once again partnered with Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) to educate motorists about the signs of human trafficking and to enforce laws that crack down on traffickers.

“The goal of this week-long tristate human trafficking initiative is to raise awareness and educate those individuals in positions to observe human trafficking taking place, such as commercial motor vehicle drivers, public transportation companies, rest area attendants and truck stop employees,” stated Capt. Michael Krumm, commander of the MSP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED). “These individuals are a force multiplier that can act as the eyes and ears of Michigan’s highways.”

Michigan first partnered with TAT in 2015, and has since been recognized as one of three states that have fully implemented their awareness program.

To report trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 888-373-7888 or text BeFree to 233733. As of Oct. 28, 2016 the NHTRC hotline had received 669 calls and identified 190 possible cases of human trafficking in Michigan.

For more information about TAT, visit http://truckersagainsttrafficking.org.

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